Obama-Aquino Meet: What Happened Behind Closed Doors?

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) – With the controversy generated by the loss of Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao to American boxing champion Tim Bradley, Filipinos have no clue what happened behind closed doors of the White House during President Aquino’s bilateral meeting with President Obama.

As everybody knows, when President Obama invited President Aquino several months ago, I am wondering if Mr. Aquino ever asked from Mr. Obama’s subalterns what was the main agenda?

It is always a given that during a bilateral meeting, the host will dictate the agenda. But the guest might as well prepare his own list after the main agenda was discussed.

And this is $64-M question that has been bugging me: Who is preparing the agenda for Messrs. Obama and Aquino? The bureaucrats, who are not accountable to the people because they are not elected into office?

If the main agenda were to contain the pesky China in Philippine Western Sea, couldn’t Messrs. Aquino and Obama discuss other matters afterwards as called for under the Robert Rules of Order? Did they just stare at each other without discussing anything else?

My beef is aside from the economic issue like the Millennium Challenge ($434-million) that was mentioned by Mr. Obama after their meeting, I don’t see any other economic issues raised? The Millennium Challenge has been granted several months ago.


I was waiting for President Obama to mention in his post bilateral-meeting 425-word remarks his endorsement of the S. 1244, Save Our Industries Act (SAVE Act), for passage by the U.S. Congress just as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pitched for the same after the 2+2 meeting last April. If not, perhaps a commitment that Mr. Obama will issue an executive order to carry out the contents of such bill. But I heard mere generalities.

Or is it possible, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk put his foot down on the SAVE Act because of the widespread labor rights violations in the Philippines, notably the union busting of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) by PAL management, the Philippine Labor Secretary and Malacanang?

If this is so, then, President Aquino should have done his homework before traveling to the White House by reviewing his actions that could stop cold the illegal “outsourcing” practice at PAL and other private companies that are not telling him the truth that they are making money.
Aside from the new National Coast Watch Center that Secretary Clinton was planning to build in the Philippines without mentioning any dollar amount, I don’t see other concrete accomplishments that could be associated with the containment of China at the Scarborough Shoal during the bilateral meeting.


I was waiting for Mr. Aquino to extend his 105-word statement after the meeting to inform Mr. Obama that there are 24,000 elderly Filipino World War veterans who could not take advantage of the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Mr. Obama signed in 2009 because their names are not found in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Mr. Aquino could have told Mr. Obama that Mr. Obama could endorse the passage of H.R. 210, The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier [CA-12-D], which would allow the Filvets to introduce their service records from the Philippine Armed Forces or from the U.S. Department of the Army so they can file for their benefits. And because most of these supposed applicants are dying by the minute, Mr. Obama can issue an executive order for such purpose. Of course, the bill will also overturn the Recession Acts of 1946, which took away the benefits from the Filvets.

And Mr. Aquino could have informed Mr. Obama of the pending House Concurrent Resolution No. 18 introduced by Rep. Bob Filner [CA-51-D], urging the President to authorize the return to the people of the Philippines of three church bells that were taken from the town of Balangiga, Samar in the Philippines by the United States Army in 1901, two of the bells are currently displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

If not, Mr. Obama can sign an executive order for the return of those bells.

In fact, Mr. Aquino can also suggest to Mr. Obama to create an “Ad Hoc” Special Team-Committee to revisit and conduct an unbiased analysis for permanent and final compensatory, payment and reparation to Filipino veterans.


He can say that since the Philippines was a U.S. Commonwealth from 1934 to 1946, Filipinos during the war were “legally presumed ‘en masse’ U.S. naturalized.”If these were so, then the Filipino soldiers during WW II should not have been stripped of their benefits under the Recession Acts of 1946.  As residents of U.S. Commonwealth Philippines, they were U.S. citizens under the “jus soli” and “jus sanguinis” principles like those residing in Commonwealth Puerto Rico.

And as a parting shot, Mr. Aquino could suggest to Mr. Obama that the Visiting Forces Agreement should be reviewed so that it would provide that if U.S. G.I’s would run afoul with Philippine civil and criminal laws, they should be charged before Philippine civilian courts and jailed in Philippine prisons after findings of probable cause.

If Mr. Aquino could not say this laundry list in public, he should at least have written Mr. Obama a letter, identifying some of the wishes of the Filipinos and Filipino Americans that should be known by the U.S. President.

Next time the White House allows reporters to ask Mr. Obama a question, it should also allow other reporters to ask Mr. Obama’s guest, in this case, Mr. Aquino, a question. As it turned out the answer alone of Mr. Obama to one question lasted more than the combined length of statements of both Messrs. Obama and Aquino. Mr. Aquino was never asked a question.

I have a feeling if Mr. Obama will see an uphill battle in his re-election, he can unite the voters behind him if the U.S. will take up arms alongside the Philippines against China in Philippine Western Sea by invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. But this will come with a steep-price tag: settle some, if not, all of the above outstanding issues that irritate the relations of two allied countries.

God forbid, the “Wag-the-Dog” scenario is off the table of Mr. Obama. If that happens, God bless the Philippines. And God bless the United States! (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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